Eugene M. McShane is a native of Stonington, Connecticut. During WWII he enlisted in the Army in 1943 and trained as a forward artillery observer. During the allied invasion of Normandy, he landed on Omaha Beach (Dog Red zone) as part of the second wave, June 7, 1944 (D+1). As part of the 116th Infantry Brigade, he was among the first troops to enter newly liberated Paris. As his unit progressed toward Germany, Gene saw combat action during some of Europe’s most notable battles, including Falaise Gap, Siegfried Line, Battle of the Bulge, Roer River, Malmody, and Bastogne.
After the war, Gene returned to Connecticut to work the family dairy farm for twenty-five years. Then he took a job as a property tax manager with the Westinghouse corporation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the next forty-two years.
Gene is the author of The Life and Times of Gene McShane, a delightful memoir available here.
On a snowy March 3rd, 2015, we conducted our first long-form oral history interview via telephone. WWII veteran Eugene McShane shared his story with us from Mystic, Connecticut. At 90, Gene recently moved from Pittsburgh to New England to live with his daughter, Marilyn. Ruth Crocker, whom we recently featured in episode #12 of our Veteran Voices podcast series, hosted Gene’s phone conversation in her Connecticut home. In fact, it was Ruth who originally introduced us to Gene, as she and Marilyn are long-time friends.
“I think there’s someone here you’d like to interview for your project,” Ruth exclaimed during our podcast recording. “He’s a WWII veteran born in New England and living here now, but he’s lived in Pittsburgh for more than 40 years. Does that count?”
“Sure does,” we replied. He’s Pittsburgh enough for us.
At Omaha Beach, Eugene McShane landed in the Dog Red Sector on D+1. Listen to his story.
“You must be honest. You must be truthful,” writes Elie Wiesel about memoir. Gene McShane’s simple and straightforward account of his life in The Life and Times of Gene McShane follows suit. This recently penned reflection of a life more than ninety years in the making is truly an American everyman’s story.
Of special interest though, readers will find “Wartime” to be a remarkable chapter about Gene’s WWII experience, which includes an account of his D+1 landing at Omaha Beach. Like most veterans of that era, he tells his story with humbleness, if not careful reservation. Some stories are better left untold. When they cannot, the historic record often speaks for these veterans; it tells of the horrors GIs like Gene had to endure–and live with–and cannot speak of. After all, such heart wrenching stories are already written into every veterans cemetery from Arlington to the Cimetière américain de Normandie.